' ' Cinema Romantico: Top 10 Favorite Seinfeld Episodes

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Top 10 Favorite Seinfeld Episodes

As we know, I am one of the most 14 noted "Seinfeld" scholars on the planet. (No? Quick, tell me, where did Elaine grow up? DON'T GOOGLE IT! TELL ME! ......... Yeah, that's what I thought.) Which is why it's surprising I've never made a list of Top 10 "Seinfeld" Episodes. Then again, it might not be surprising at all. How in the name of Sidra Holland does one go about creating a Top 10 "Seinfeld" Episodes list? What's the criteria? Most definitive? Most influential on the culture? Most influential on future TV? Or just your favorites? Yeah, that's really the only way to go. Favorites. Thus, I must re-stress that word - favorites.

This is not a definitive list of the ten best "Seinfeld" episodes. No way. Too subjective. It's why you won't find "The Contest" or "The Boyfriend" or "The Marine Biologist" or "The Soup Nazi", though, frankly in many ways "The Soup Nazi" is kinda overrated. Seriously. "The Chinese Woman" or "The Alternate Side", to name just a couple, take it to school, man. No, this is a list of my totally partial and completely personal ten favorite episodes. That's it. The ones I could (and have) watched over and over and over and over. Let's get to it.

(Note: Ryan McNeil of The Matinee just had a fantastic post in relation to making lists such as these, a post with which I mostly agree, and yet here I am making a Top 10 List two days later. One, I actually typed up this list a couple weeks ago. Two, I've seen every "Seinfeld" episode, most of them numerous times, and am entirely qualified to do this. Just so you know. But you should still read his post. It's very interesting.)

My Top 10 Favorite "Seinfeld" Episodes  

10. The Fusilli Jerry. A brilliantly structured episode in which the main topics are "moves" (sexual & romantic), Kramer being the recipient of an "Assman" vanity license plate and our first introduction to an auto mechanic named David Puddy. The capping line (via Frank Costanza) gets my vote as the greatest in the show's history, precisely because it is built up to so perfectly: "Million to one shot, doc. Million to one."

9. The Label Maker. Jerry has two tickets to The Super Bowl but can't make it because of The Drake's wedding. He gives them to Tim Watley. Chaos ensues - including, but not limited to, a re-gifted label maker, RISK ("the game of world domination, being played by two guys who can barely run their own lives"), and an apartment with hardwood floors and a velvet couch. Not only is this Newman's finest episode ("Who goes to the Super Bowl with their mailman?"), it's fast-moving, ceaselessly hilarious and builds to a conclusion that calls back to an earlier episode and proves once and for all that no idea of George Costanza's is really ever all that good.

8. The Hamptons. "Seinfeld's" ode to the bedroom farce involves the gang and Jerry and George's lady friends traveling to the infamous Long Island getaway spot to "see the bay-bee." Inevitably, things go awry. The "bay-bee" turns out to be the ugliest baby in the history of civilization, Kramer is arrested for poaching lobsters, everyone but George gets to see his girlfriend topless, and, most notoriously, George's relationship is eventually undone by, uh, "shrinkage." Great lines and great setpieces, one after another. My favorite (out of context) line: "Easy big fella." My favorite setpiece: Kramer telling George they saw his girlfriend topless and Jerry's reaction in the background. Personal Memory: My best friend, a fellow "Seinfeld" zealot, a New Yorker now for many years, leaving me a message once long ago that simply said: "Nick! I'm in the Hamptons! I'M IN THE HAMPTONS!!!"

7. The Wig Master. Perhaps most famous as the episode in which Kramer briefly and mistakenly metamorphoses into a pimp and is arrested at the infamous Jiffy Park, the episode takes its title from Susan's flamboyant friend who winds up as a house guest at George's apartment, much, of course, to his dismay. Aside from the pimp fiasco there aren't a lot of famously uproarious sequences here but, oh, is there some grand stuff bubbling below the surface. Champagne Coolies. George trying to glean info from a parking lot hooker, offering to pay her for her time and then asking if she has change for a twenty. George's reaction when The Wig Master displays how much work he's done - "Very nice." You just have to hear it. And the exchange that on certain days I think is the greatest in the show's whole history.

Jerry: "I'd like to return this jacket."
Saleswoman: "Certainly. May I ask why?"
Jerry: "For spite."
Saleswoman: "Spite?"
Jerry: "That's right. I don't care for the salesman who sold it to me."

6. The Fix Up. Jerry and Elaine decide to fix up George ("My dream is to become hopeless") with Elaine's friend Cynthia ("You can be young and bitter - I'm maybe not as bitter I'm going to be ten years from now, but I'm bitter"). In of the series' absolute greatest sequences, George grills Jerry about his potential date, finally agrees to go and it ends up both much better and much worse than anyone could have expected, culminating in several pitiful but hilarious fist fights. Also, Kramer's friend Bob Sackamano gets a job at a condom factory. This is more critical than you might realize.

That's right, kids, long before Bryan Cranston was "Breaking Bad" he was Tim Watley. And don't you forget it.
5. The Mom And Pop Store. George buys a Chrysler Lebaron because it once (possibly) belonged to Jon Voight. Did it? A chewed up pencil, a bite mark on Kramer's arm and Tim Watley's Thanksgiving-eve party all factor into the mix to attempt to find out for sure. Meanwhile Elaine's extensive knowledge of big band records leads to Mr. Pitt's infamous Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade mishap and Kramer's friendship that goes horribly wrong with a local Mom And Pop Store leads to a conclusion straight outta "Midnight Cowboy." And yes, I make a point to rewatch this episode every Thanksgiving. "I suppose if I'd suggested Liam Neeson Day you'd all be pattin' me on the back!"

4. The Phone Message. This is an earlier episode when the show's rhythms were much slower and easy-going. Elaine and Kramer are barely even it and the main plot - George leaving several messages in increasing anger on a woman's answering machine ("I'd like another shot at the coffee just so I could spit it in your face!") which prompts George to recruit Jerry to scheme to get into the woman's apartment and replace the answering machine tape - is, uh, just slightly dated. (Oh, to be able to replace a bad voicemail, or to be able to hang up when you realize you weren't mentally prepared to make the call but your number has already appeared on the girl's caller id. Yeah, and cellphones are all for the better. Give me a freaking break.) But that's okay because the interplay between Jerry and George from beginning to end and George's galaxy-sized neurosis here are both unbelievably hysterical and something to which I can totally relate. This is my second favorite scene in the history of "Seinfeld." (I also think Carol might have been the best woman that ever entered Georgie Boy's life. I'm still sorry she got away.)

3. The Pez Dispenser. This episode has so much going on but still manages to tie it all together beautifully and effortlessly with magnificent dialogue peppered throughout. George is dating the concert pianist Noelle except Elaine laughs at her recital when Jerry puts a pez dispenser on her leg and George forces Elaine to keep her mouth shut, though meanwhile George is also concerned he has no "hand" in the relationship and only gains "hand" by, on the advice of Kramer, who has joined the polar bear club and fashioned an idea for a cologne that smells like the beach, turning to a "pre-emptive break-up" and taking control of the relationship before it completely backfires at an intervention at Jerry's apartment for fellow comedian Richie who's hooked on drugs when a polar bear buddy of Kramer tells a joke that makes Elaine laugh in front of Noelle, though, worry not, because Richie gets off drugs when he instead becomes hooked on......pez. I don't care what anyone says, before, then, after, now, whichever, whatever, they never have and never will make 'em as good as this one.

2. The Dinner Party. The quartet, on their way to a dinner party, separate so that Jerry & Elaine can buy a cake and George & Kramer can buy a bottle of wine. Things break down. Essentially this is just another variation on the trip to "The Chinese Restaurant" and to "The Parking Garage" but not as cleverly plotted - that Saddam Hussein thing at the end is a little weak. But still......I personally think it's the single most quotable "Seinfeld" episode of all time. "Look to the cookie, Elaine, look to the cookie." "Cinnamon takes a backseat to no babka!" "We can put a man on the moon but we're still basically very stupid!" "I don't drink wine. I drink Pepsi." "Imagine if we didn't bring the wine! We'd be shunned by society! Outcasts! 'Where's your wine?! Get out!'" Not to mention it's also the Gortex episode ("You like saying Gortex, don't you?"). Whatever weaknesses it may have, I can get lost in the language of this one every time.

1. The Race. This is the one, baby. The best 20 minutes of TV I've ever seen, masterfully weaving into its awesome narrative three variations on the shade of red - Santa, Superman and Communism, all while giving each one of its characters a strong storyline. Jerry, dating a woman named - ahem - Lois, re-facing his long lost nemesis Duncan Meyer, whom he falsely beat in a high school race when he got a head start no one noticed. Elaine dating a communist whom she accidentally gets blacklisted at his favorite Chinese restaurant. George dating a communist and getting sent to Cuba by George Steinbrenner to scout Castro's prime baseball talent. Kramer becoming a department store Santa and spouting communist propaganda to children. "No, don't you see, kid? You're being bamboozled!" And all leading to Jerry re-racing Duncan and getting yet another mistaken false start which means that essentially this entire episode is all about furthering a lie. Which, in many ways, is the moral of the whole "Seinfeld" universe.

Also, this is the single greatest scene in the show's whole run.


Andy Buckle said...

I love it. Some great episodes here, my friend! The Fix Up ("There's a hue!"), The Mom and Pop Store (I sometimes spell Jerry with a G...and an I hahahahaha), The Phone Message, The Pez Dispenser ("I have so much hand I'm coming out of my gloves") and of course, The Race ("Duncan Myer!") are truly classics!

But as you know, there are very few weak Seinfeld episodes. I guarantee, everyone who is a fan of this show will come up with something different for a Top 10.

I have made this list a bunch of times but I have never been happy with it. Would you be opposed to myself giving it a go in the next week or so? You have inspired me!

Nick Prigge said...

Heck, no! Take a crack at it! I'd love to see your list!

I'm also glad you mentioned "There's a hue" from that episode. That might be my favorite line from that one. Although the whole episode is stacked. Really, all these episodes are stacked.

Jacob said...

I have to say I expected Kenny Roger's Roasters to make an appearance on this list. But as already said there are many, many great episodes.

"Jerry. It's Frank Costanza. Stienbrenner's here, George is dead, call me back."

Jacob said...

I realize those are different episodes, just two of my favorite.

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